By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Brazilian bishop who was accused of turning a blind eye to suspected pedophile priests in his diocese, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
The Vatican said Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba, 66, citing a section of Church law under which bishops are obliged to tender their resignation if they are ill or if there is "grave cause".
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Under normal circumstances, he would have remained bishop until he turned 75.
Last year, the Church stripped Pagotto of his power to ordain priests while the accusations against him were being investigated.
Pagatto had been accused of allowing men into seminaries in his diocese to become priests even though they had been rejected from other places in Brazil because they were suspected child abusers.
In a letter posted on the diocese's website, Pagotto said:
"I welcomed priests and seminarians with the intention of offering them new opportunities in life. Some were later suspected of committing serious wrongdoings ... I made mistakes by trusting too much, with naive mercy."
Last month, Francis issued a new decree saying bishops found to have been negligent when dealing with cases of sexual abuse could be investigated and removed from office if they did not offer to resign..
The decree requires the Vatican to launch an investigation if "serious evidence" of negligence is found. The bishop is given the opportunity to defend himself. Ultimately, the Vatican can issue a decree to remove him or ask him to resign within 15 days.
A Vatican spokesman said Pagatto's case was handled under the previous, existing, procedures.
The Catholic Church has been rocked over the past 15 years by scandals over priests who sexually abused children and were transferred by bishops from parish to parish instead of being turned over to authorities and defrocked.
In some developed countries, particularly in the United States, the Church has paid tens of millions of dollars in settlements to victims.
(Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione in Brasilia; Editing by Richard Balmforth)